Mobile payments: Wake up and smell the coffee

by Paul Sparkes 24. November 2011 12:49

I’m sure that coffee lovers today will be heralding the news that Starbucks is installing a mobile payment system in the form of an iPhone app into 700 of its outlets across the UK to be rolled out from January 2012.

With UK mobile retail sales estimated to hit £2.5bn in 2016, and 14 million adults regularly shopping from their mobiles it’s nosurprise that over the next few years we can expect a huge change in the way we shop and pay for things.

YouGov research, commissioned by digital payments provider Intelligent Environments, says 42 % of smartphone users want to use their phones as mobile wallets. Owners of the Apple iPhone are keenest, but significant proportions of BlackBerry and Google phone users want to take advantage of it too.

This is interesting stuff because it’s not the technology built into mobile phones is the way that everything, from cameras to translators, seems to be going - It’s down to the fact that this new mobile-based method is quick, simpler and crucially, more secure than anything we’ve got available at the moment.

Carl Scheible’s vision of money for example is to “enable you to pay for something from wherever you are, whatever device you're on – a PC, mobile phone, tablet, games console and a whole lot more." Interesting coming from the managing director of PayPal UK.

PayPal also expects to process more than $3.5bn in mobile payments this year. That's five times the amount it processed in 2010.

This technology will admittedly initially be used mostly for buying cups of coffee and snatched lunchtime sandwiches, but we can look forward to shoppers being able to carry digital loyalty cards, promotional offers and receipts on their phones – keeping everything in one place creating a virtual shopping hub.

I don’t think that this is to say that cash will disappear entirely, but customers will increasingly use their phones and other devices rather than their wallets to pay in-store as well as online.

Brian Waring, vice president, marketing and category, Starbucks UK and Ireland, said: "Customers want to be served quickly, but fewer want to use cash.

Businesses could do well to wake up and smell Starbucks’ coffee. A move such as the introduction of their mobile payment app really adds value to the customer, giving them more reason to visit Starbucks and in turn streamlining the business process and efficiencies.

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